Thursday, October 30, 2008

Canada's asbestos shame continues






















Once again, a dangerous and toxic substance--chrysotile asbestos--has failed to make the Rotterdam Convention watchlist. As reported yesterday, Canada found some proxies (its biggest asbestos customers) to do its dirty work for us, to use the words of critic Pat Martin.

The next opportunity will be three years hence--after who knows how many more painful deaths from lung cancer and mesothelioma. Only the National Post, for whom profit is everything, could support such an atrocity--as it did, shamefully, last week. It couldn't even get its basic facts right:

If the men in hard hats who are hauling tons of the stuff out of the earth aren't at risk, it seems rather backward for us to concern ourselves first with the much smaller risks that end users in other countries ultimately face.

Quebec, in fact, has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world. The National Post's position, in any case, was demolished by three experts yesterday.

In my earlier article on the subject, I had inaccurately indicated that the Canadian Labour Congress, while passing an anti-asbestos resolution in May of this year, was delaying implementing it until a 16-page report from Health Canada, which the government has been reviewing since March (!), had been released.

In fact, that was plain wrong: the Quebec Federation of Labour had indeed asked for such a delay in February, but this was overridden by the CLC in its May resolution, which called for an outright asbestos ban, with transition measures for Quebec workers. Its position on the mining and sale of asbestos was duly conveyed to the Canadian government in advance of the Rotterdam Convention meeting in Rome.

The head of the pro-asbestos Chrysotile Institute, Clément Godbout, will be commenting at the end of the week. Godbout is a former president of the QFL (1993-1998). No doubt, with Stephen Harper and the National Post, he is pleased with the outcome. Less pleased, I suspect, will be the countless brown people in the Third World who will die in agony because of Canada's seeming inability to do the right thing.

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